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KTH Names Sweden’s First Professor of Patient Safety


Published Nov 23, 2011

Richard Cook, physician, researcher and expert on errors in complex healthcare systems — and now Sweden’s first Professor of Patient Safety — will take up his post at KTH in 2012.

Richard Cook will take up his post at KTH as professor of patient safety in 2012.

“KTH is a leader in understanding safety in healthcare”, says Richard Cook, slated to assume the Chair in Patient Safety at KTH.

A researcher and instructor at the University of Chicago since 1994, Dr Cook is an internationally recognised expert in the study of human error, the role of technology in human expert performance, and patient safety.

“Through its close collaboration with Karolinska Institute and Hospital, KTH is an ideal laboratory for research and development”, he says.

The newly created professorship is seen as a major achievement for the KTH School of Technology and Health in Flemingsberg, outside Stockholm.

Synnove Ödegård. Photo: Joakim Serrander

“It’s great that Sweden now has a professor tasked with studying the prerequisites, weaknesses and strengths in healthcare”, says Synnove Ödegård, Director of the Division of Patient Safety at the KTH School of Technology and Health.

With 20 years’ experience in patient safety issues, she says it’s long been an uphill struggle. 

“It took many years before the community realised how widespread the problem of medical injury is, and that’s partly due to a failure to study information from past experiences. Today there are hundreds of thousands of events registered in national databases, but there’s not enough analysis”, Ödegård says.

Reported events include healthcare-associated infections, medication errors, incorrect or missed diagnoses and incorrect surgical procedures.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between an unavoidable complication and an injury that could have been prevented. But the number of medical injuries is unacceptably high”, shs adds.

Ödegård emphasises that Sweden’s focus on patient safety issues is more than a short-term trend.

“There’s now an acute awareness in the healthcare community that we have a system that sometimes fails, and that leads to serious consequences for both patients and health professionals.” 

Richard Cook. Photo: University of Chicago

The health service has a lot to learn from research in other industries with high security demands. Ödegård, who is a nurse, sees a lot of advantages to KTH taking a leading role in the field of patient safety.

We were the first to offer advanced education. It’s been four years since we began offering “Patient Safety in Theory and Practice”, and in January the course will be offered for the fifth time, with participants coming from all over the country. With this new professorship, we can take it a step further and get up to speed with the research”, she says.

For more information: Synnove Ödegård, +46-705-57 33 00;

Katarina Ahlfort